Seventy-nine Ferrovial professionals have volunteered in the Social Infrastructures programme. Three of them, Rosario Tripiana, Mabel García and Javier Martínez, are sharing their experiences with us and giving us an honest, and bravado-free, perspective on the programme.
Since it was founded in 2011, the ‘Social Infrastructures’ programme has demonstrated that the best way for a company to contribute to human development is by offering what it does best, which in the case of Ferrovial is constructing and managing infrastructures.
Since the beginning of Ferrovial’s collaboration with NGDOs, 79 company employees have successfully lent their talent and experience to one or more of the 18 projects which have been developed as part of the programme, the aim of which is to improve and expand access to drinking water and basic sanitation in communities at risk of exclusion in Africa and Latin America.
“When I decided to get involved, my main expectation was to be able to contribute technical expertise. Very specific profiles are asked for, and as such I always accepted that quite a lot of experience in the project field was necessary”, highlights Rosario Tripiana, one of the Ferrovial Agroman US & Canada professionals who have participated in Social Infrastructures, specifically in the construction of a drinking water supply system in the Saylla district (Cusco) in Peru, along with the Ecology and Development NGO. For each of the projects at least one trip is organised. The number of volunteers who make the journey varies between two and five, depending on requirements and logistical options. The professional profiles are set out by the Joint Committee created for each project on the programme. This committee is made up of representatives from Ferrovial and the partner NGO. Although technical profiles are what is generally required, on occasions there is call for professionals with other skills. This was the case with Mabel García, who works as a communications and relations specialist with interest groups at Ferrovial Agroman UK. “I was just really excited when a colleague who had participated before in Social Infrastructures sent it to me the application to volunteer and said,this is you!’. I don’t think an opening for a communication specialist was advertised before”, comments Mabel, who travelledn to Uganda to collaborate on the International Plan to develop a project which will provide 13,000 people with access to drinking water.
THE VOLUNTEER’S EXPERIENCE
Once the volunteers have been chosen and their participation has been confirmed, they are allocated duties based on each one’s knowledge. Before setting out, the group receives information regarding the project and they attend an information session addressing the context, Ferrovial’s partners involved in the project, both in Spain and in the country where it is being carried out, and logistical matters. “CR team was excellent in the whole process. The structure to communicate the different stages of the project was really good. Plan International received us with incredible professionalism and they gave us a good brief of what they expected from the group, and particularly from each of the specialists”, Mabel adds. For Javier Martínez it is key that volunteers are aware, before setting out, of the roles played by the organisations involved in the project, and how they are going to provide added value. “The lack of experience and the distortion of what is perceived through the media make you see yourself as the star of the show, when our real intention is to work in cooperation, allowing local people to lead and build the project. I have come to realise that this is what makes Social Infrastructures more than just a construction project”, he notes. Javier is the Cadagua Head of Services at the Bens (La Coruña) waste water treatment plant, and he volunteered in the “Ñu Savi: Water for Mixtecs” project, where he collaborated with CESAL on the introduction of a drinking water system to ensure supply for communities in the municipality of Asunción Nochixtlán, in the
Mexican state of Oaxaca.
Once on the ground, volunteers propose solutions to improve the project. “Although we did not come up against any major technical difficulties, we did make a series of design recommendations, such as to modify the location of the tank to avoid possible landslides which might damage it in the future, or to alter its dimensions to ensure water supply for a population 20 years in the future”, Rosario recalls.
AFTER THE VOLUNTEER WORK
The experience lived on the ground leaves its mark on the volunteers. Mabel, Rosario and Javier confirm that they apply everything they learnt from the Ferrovial colleagues with whom they shared their travels and the NGO professionals with whom they collaborated in their daily lives, as well as their own skills which were reinforced by the context in which they did their volunteer work. “My job in London involves creation of solutions to engage with the communities in which we work. I understood that to connect with people you need to understand their motives and when you do that, preparing a plan for engagement became a lot easier. I learnt from my colleague Rosa Sanchís an efficient way of putting ideas into an structured plan of action.
I learnt from the professionals at Plan Uganda that our jobs were at the end of the day, very similar.”, Mabel explains. Rosario emphasizes that this experience made her “value the importance of the professionals with whom one works all the more, and not just technicians, but also people from the community who know the area and the requirements of the project”. Javier learnt something similar. “I would emphasize the need to understand people in order for a project to be successful. Everybody has something to say. You only have to listen and for that to be reflected in the content of a project”, he comments. All three recommend volunteering in Social Infrastructures extremely highly. Rosario summarises their reasons: “For me it was one of the most gratifying professional and personal experiences. Firstly because it allows you to share the experience with local professionals. And because it allows you to get involved right at the heart of communities of extraordinary generosity. Because it enables you to evaluate, first hand, what the Social Infrastructures programme does, and appreciate just how important it really is. And because of the great team of individuals that come together during those
weeks, with your Ferrovial colleagues; it really is worth it.”